Friday 9 March 2018
My daughter Victoria and, now husband, Leighton got married at a stunning venue near Waikanae, NZ with a great bunch of people.
Sunday 11 March 2018
We flew home to Auckland for a few hours before catching the Emirates flight via Dubai to Copenhagen. Emirates used to be one of my favourite airlines to fly with but they too are dropping their standards, especially when it comes to on-board service.
Monday 12 March 2018
This evening we checked into the Babette Guldsmeden Hotel in Copenhagen. Sylvia headed off to a dinner meeting and I headed off to the hotel restaurant for a rather tasty meal of cod. The food and service in the hotel is excellent whilst the room, with its strange layout, is rather average.
Tuesday 13 March 2018
Having spent the morning catching up on some work I headed across the road from the hotel to what at first sight appeared to be a park. Kastellet (the Citadel) is one of the best preserved star fortresses in Europe, complete with moat. Built in 1626 it was part of the defensive system, which back then encircled the city. Still owned and occupied by the military it is now open as a park.
Heading out the other side of the fort I wandered down to the waterfront past a marina and along a very tidy wharf. Like many Scandinavian cities they love their statues here. A particularly famous one is the little bronze mermaid, who has been sitting on a rock waiting to get a glimpse of some prince through two world wars and for over a hundred years and is still waiting. In the intervening years they have also added a concrete one looking out to sea.
We are a bit lucky with the weather as this week it is between -2 and +2 which, the locals tell me, is warm compared with the past few weeks where it has been below -10. (Sylvia’s note: despite the “relatively warm” temperatures the biting wind made it feel bitterly cold – to me at least).
Wednesday 14 March 2018
I strolled down the road to the Osterport Station where I caught the train to Malmo, in Sweden, to visit my friend Erik, who is the International Sales Manager for Aimpoint. Luckilyy Erick had suggested that I bring my passport as on leaving the platform at Malmo two policemen stood checking everyone’s passports or ID’s. Even though part of the EU, Sweden has had to tighten up its borders after an influx of over a million unwanted refugees over the past few years. Gang violence, rapes and murders are on the increase, apparently caused in most cases by the large number of single, male, unemployed immigrants.
Erik picked me up outside a new shopping mall in Hyllie for the short drive to the Aimpoint factory. These guys make the best red-dot sights in the world. With the business having grown 10-fold over the past few years they are in the process of building a new factory and offices. I was privileged to have a tour through the factory, which is absolutely immaculate. Sorry no photos but for those interested you can check out Aimpoint.com
Thursday 15 March 2018
It’s slightly on the plus side of zero as I stroll with Sylvia and some of her colleagues down to the waterfront where the development program is taking place. From there I strolled around the waterfront coming across the queen’s quarters. Amalienborg consists of four large buildings surrounding a large courtyard. The queen occupies the one on the southwest side, the prince and his Australian-born princess the one on the southeast side. The one on the northeast is partially open to the public, showing off some relic-cluttered rooms from the past.
Young soldiers in their bearskin hats patrol in front of the buildings 24 hours a day. These guys are conscripts doing their compulsory military service of between 4 and 12 months; this has been the law in Denmark since 1849. The young guard I chatted to (which is okay provided one doesn’t get closer than 2 meters) was keen to get this part of his duty over and get out in the field to do some running around and some shooting. Interestingly they seem to have adapted a way of holding their assault rifles by folding their arms, which helps keep them warm when marching.
At the end of the street that runs through the palace is Frederiks Kieke (church), a dome church 32m in diameter, built mainly of limestone and marble. Originally started in 1749 to commemorate 300 years since the coronation of a member of the house of Oldenburg, with a money shortage and the odd dodgy deal it wasn’t finally opened until 1894.
Not far down the road is a canal which is lined both sides with brightly coloured buildings, many of which are restaurants with lots of outside dining.
Crossing another canal I headed for Vor Fresers Kirke. On an island which was originally created as part of the moat defensive system of the city this church is rather unique. Originally built in the 1600’s, in the early 1700’s it had a spire added with an external staircase which actually goes nowhere; in fact it just gets narrower and narrower until one can go no further – the smaller you are the further you get. Interestingly like many buildings in Copenhagen it is built of timber with huge wooden beams and columns as its internal structure. The outside if the spire is clad in copper. Inside there are a range of bells which are all linked to a thing that looks a bit like a piano but is in actual fact a bell player. At 80 plus meters tall there are great views from the top.
Most of the buildings in Copenhagen are brick or stone. This came about after a number of fires in the city. One in 1728 destroyed approximately 28% of the city, hence a law was brought in that all buildings must be clad in stone. As a result of that and many other fires there is little remaining of the original medieval city.
Back across the canal I came across the National Museum. One really good section in there was a walk through time line of Denmark dating back to the 1300’s, which outlined really well the history of the country with exhibits relating to each era.
Just across the canal I came across the Christiansborg Slot (the main Palace and parliament buildings) including a large equestrian arena stables and indoor arena in the grounds. This is quite a big place. First I took a trip up the spire to enjoy some more views of the city. On the way out I tried to take a short cut through an arch and ended up in a shop to discover one could do a tour of part of the palace including the basement and the kitchen. I paid the money and headed first to the palace. Started in 1908 and finished in 1927 it is very similar to the Hermitage in St Petersburg with lots of huge rooms but in this case not much memorabilia as I presume much of that stuff was destroyed in a number of past fires. There have been palaces on this site since 1167. Many have been destroyed and rebuilt. At one time a ruler had stone masons pull down the whole building. This is the third Christiansborg. The first started in 1733 and by 1745 was the largest palace in Europe – it was destroyed by fire in 1794. The second completed in 1828 was destroyed by fire in 1884.
Next I headed to the basement. When they were excavating the footings to build this palace they discovered the relics of a number of previous palaces. The museum got involved and as a result the old relics were uncovered and the new building built over the top of them. There are two large areas under the palace where the old ruins date back to 1167.
Next stop was the huge kitchen with a great collection of copper pots. They are seldom used nowadays as on the odd occasion the palace is used for formal and ceremonial occasions catering is mostly brought in.
Last stop for the day was the stables. The horses are a big part of ceremonies here; as an example every new ambassador that takes up a post here is driven by carriage to meet the queen. The stables are neat and tidy and the horses in good nick.
Friday 16 March 2017
Its -3 as we head out in the morning. Sylvia heads to the final day of her program and I take a short stroll across town to yet another castle. Rosenborge Castle with its huge grounds was built in the early 1600’s by Christian IV. Built as a pleasure palace it became the kings favourite place. It sounds as though this guy was a bit of a hard case. Apparently with a colourful personality, lots of building projects and a few lost wars he made a bit of a mark in Danish history. By the 1700’s the castle was no longer used as a residence but became a place to store old fine objects and there are a lot of them. In fact parts of the place are quite cluttered; there is one room just full of china, another of silverware. Since 1838 the palace, or should I say part of it, has been open to the public.
Next stop, not far away, was the round tower, originally built as an observatory in the 1700’s with a spiral ramp turning 7.5 times and running almost to the top of the 42m building. Built on the end of a church of timber with huge wooden columns and brick cladding, one can access the upper levels of the church from the tower. There is a deck at the top with good views over the city.
Later in the day when Sylvia finished her program, we left the hotel, picked up a rental car and leaving the Island of Zealand we headed across the causeway and large suspension bridge to Sweden. It was an easy drive on the up the E6 (E meaning European highway). These highways are maintained by the EU and are always a pleasure to drive on. 300 kms up the coast we came to Gothenburg, where we checked into the Raddison Blu Hotel. I mention this as most hotel rooms are badly lit no matter how expensive they are. These guys have done it well – recently refurbished they had got it all right along with friendly staff and great service.
Saturday 20 March 2018
After a great breakfast we headed to the Stena Line vehicle ferry back to Denmark. It’s a clear sunny day at -8c with ice floating down the river as the boat makes its way west downriver past a huge industrial area with hundreds of what look like oil tanks and a huge container port.
In a little over 3 hours we arrive at Frederikshaven in Denmark. Rolling off the ferry first we headed north to the most northern point of Denmark where the Baltic and the North Sea meet. The local paint shop in Skagen, the town just south of the point must have run a really good special on yellow paint at some stage as just about every building in town is yellow. Just north of the town is the wind swept beach still has the remnants of the gun emplacements built by the Germans in WW II. With over a million visitors a year this place is pretty popular even on this now only -4 spring day. We check out the beach as the strong wind does its best to force us back to the car.
As we head south the road takes us over to the west coast before heading back southwest. Soon we are again on an E road where the speed limit is 130kph, the traffic moving freely and people sticking to the right lane unless overtaking. The surrounding land is mostly farm land with the odd bit of forestry. We saw few animals as stock is housed indoor throughout the winter. There are generally large clusters of buildings surrounding houses where stock is wintered. In places where trees have been cut down they are stacked whole in piles on the side of the road, the reason I am not sure about. There are few hills here; the land is either flat or slightly rolling, which is not surprising as the highest point in the country is around 170m.
As we head further south we have to make a detour off the highway to get petrol as most service centres on the side of the highway only show a sign for charging electric vehicles but not selling petrol. The detour takes us through some picturesque villages and past a lake until our visibility is obscured by heavy snow. Eventually we arrive at Vejle, a place famous as an early viking site with two large burial mounds and wooden posts representing where the original walls were back in the 900’s. There are two famous stone runes with inscriptions on them from that era. This town is also home to the oldest church in Denmark as this is where apparently the vikings and Christianity joined each other back then.
We stopped the night in a local hotel at the village of Jelling; I think the hotel was originally an old homestead . The food was outstanding and the staff friendly and helpful.
Sunday 21 March 2018
After enjoying our last European breakfast for a while we headed back to Copenhagen. Traveling on the E20 we crossed first to the island of Funen then over a 17km bridge with the worlds 3rd largest suspension bridge two thirds of the way across to Zealand. Denmark is the fourth largest country in the world when Greenland is included. The main part of the country is made up of more than 10,000 islands.
As we are greeted by a very cheerful lady at the rental car company and again at the airline check-in we come to the conclusion that the people of Denmark have to be up there with the world’s most friendly.
As we board our flight to Bangkok sitting in front of us are two guys from Aimpoint on their way to Malaysia. I have bumped into Par and Erik (different one to the one I went to see in Malmo) in many different places over the past few years.